Waddell & Reed sees flurry of senior staff departures

Firm also experiences an almost 30% decline in number of brokers and advisers

May 16, 2018 @ 2:24 pm

By Bruce Kelly

Waddell & Reed Financial Inc. has seen a flurry of departures of senior executives from the company and its related mutual fund businesses.

On April 17, the company's general counsel and chief legal officer, Wendy J. Hills, left the company, a day before the company announced that Nikki Newton, the president of Ivy Distributors Inc., which distributes its mutual funds, was leaving.

A week before that, Waddell & Reed announced that two portfolio managers, Daniel P. Becker and Eric C. Perry, had departed the company.

Meanwhile, its broker-dealer subsidiary, Waddell & Reed Financial Advisors, has seen a significant drop in the number of brokers and advisers over the past year, with headcount decreasing 29.6%. At the end of the first quarter this year the firm had 1,170 advisers, down 492 from the same time a year earlier.

While the number of Waddell & Reed advisers is on the decline, the productivity of the remaining advisers increased over the same period of time. Last March, the company reported its advisers on average produced annual revenue of $230,000. Advisers' average annual trailing 12 months fees and commissions increased to $285,000 — a 23.9% gain —- by the end of the first quarter this year, according to the company.

Assets under management at Waddell & Reed have been on the decline.

They ended the march quarter at $80.2 billion, declining 1% compared to the prior quarter and 1% compared to the first quarter of 2017, according to company. Net outflows were $1.5 billion during the March quarter, compared to net outflows of $2.7 billion during the prior quarter and net outflows of $3.4 billion during the comparable quarter in 2017.

"Consistent with the firm's established practices related to personnel issues, we will not comment on the specifics, but can confirm that the departures [InvestmentNews] cited were not all related to each other," wrote company spokesman Roger Hoadley in an email. "With these changes, Waddell & Reed is moving forward with a clear mission to help investors realize their long-term financial goals through superior investment performance, sound advice and exceptional client service."

Waddell & Reed has two main businesses: mutual funds and brokerage. Its brokers and advisers are known for selling the parent company's funds, which operate under the Ivy Funds brand.

Ms. Hills was replaced by Mark P. Buyle, and Mr. Newton was replaced by Amy Scupham, both veterans of the firm. Mr. Becker was a large cap growth manager and was replaced by Bradley M. Klapmeyer, while Mr. Perry was a fixed-income manager and was replaced by Mark G. Beischel, global head of fixed income, and Susan Regan, another portfolio manager.

The firm's senior management was asked about the flurry of turnover at the company during a conference call with analysts at the start of May to discuss earnings.

"Obviously when there's disruptions in personnel, there's conversations that take place, people want to be reassured," said Philip J. Sanders, Waddell & Reed Financial's CEO, during the conference call. "The way I think about it, these things are always – there's never great timing on these things, but our strategy is in place where we've got a great team. We're committed to it."

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